What are the side effects of the anthrax vaccine?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

About half the people receiving a shot of the anthrax vaccine experience a lump around the injection site. Many also experience redness and irritation in the same spot. Other commonly reported side effects include: aches in the muscles, joints, or head; fever and chills; mild swelling of the hands or feet; mild skin rash; and fatigue. If these side effects don't go away or get worse, contact your doctor. Keep track of the side effects you feel after each dose of the vaccine and tell your doctor the next time you go in for a booster.

Also let your doctor know right away if you experience any of the following side effects, as they may be signs of a medical emergency: signs of an allergic reaction such as hives or an itchy rash, swelling around the mouth or face, or chest tightness and difficulty breathing; severe swelling, blistering, or redness around the injection point, particularly if it spreads from the point of injection to other parts of the body; flu-like symptoms; bruising or bleeding easily; pale skin; mood swings, vision, speech, or hearing problems, or confusion; seizures; weakness or numbness starting in the feet and spreading through the body; loss of bowel or bladder control; severe pain in the lower back; or weak pulse and trouble breathing.

As with any vaccine, anthrax vaccine (BioThrax) has some potential side effects. Most are minor and include itching, redness, bruising, tenderness or a lump on the arm at the injection site, muscle aches or temporary limitation of arm movement, and fatigue.  Anthrax is a very serious disease, and experts agree that the extremely small risk of harm from the vaccine outweighs the potential consequences.

A small number of people have a serious response to anthrax vaccine, such as an allergic reaction or high fever, but the vaccine doesn't cause any long-term health problems.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.